However, it is probably fair to draw a distinction between programs like Section 8 housing and food stamps (which probably total less than $30B), and the universe of all means-tested programs.
Increasing the talent pool is vital to producing a dynamic economy. It sounds touchy-feely, but things like school lunch programs are an enormous success when judged on the basis of their effect on childhood development, and the resulting increase in greater eventual intelligence, educational attainment, and productivity. Regardless of whether people have contempt for their parents, or pity that some people may simply have worse luck than others, something as boring as one healthy meal five days a week for nine months of the year has measurable effects on cognitive development for people who didn't choose their parents. The same goes for programs like subsidized preschool education, programs that educate young parents who didn't learn how to nurture from their parents, and many other small programs that are likely to sound very boring and very futile, but effect real incremental change that ultimately benefits the entire economy more than the individual beneficiaries.
On the other end of means tested programs from those that encourage talent pool development, are the social safety net programs that facilitate enterprising risk. Early in the nation's history for example the perfectly justifiable idea of debtors' prisons was abolished for the more pragmatic practice of bankruptcy protection. More modern programs make it increasingly possible for not only young single people to go all in on a startup, but people with families, with less risk that a failure will put their children on the street. That doesn't mean that people shouldn't work on savings, but that they can take an even bolder risk when worth it. It may be logical to argue that they should suffer the consequences of their risk, but the economy probably experiences a net benefit from encouraging people away from their biases toward playing it safe.
I get that social programs are really boring, especially since they tend to be top-down organized and not very entrepreneurial, yet it isn't accurate either to assume that they are all over-sentimental and based on pity alone, or that they all ultimately end up undermining people's chances of standing on their own feet.
Do you have data on this?
More modern programs make it increasingly possible for not only young single people to go all in on a startup, but people with families, with less risk that a failure will put their children on the street.
Many nations have such programs. It might be worth comparing entrepreneurship levels between those nations and nations without such programs.
It's unfortunate that so little is spent on cheap basic and preventative healthcare for them - as it would cost so little money to vastly improve the future 50+ or so years of their existence.
Instead, at the very last year of life, enormous amounts are spent trying practically all of the most modern, expensive treatments available.
Yes, I know... I'm cruel for making this comparison. But, you know, money is a finite resource due to this thing called "scarcity"
As for removing risk, look at the bailouts. Look at what didn't work.